Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 12/08/22
Three rounds to go, and although Voorburg’s position at the top of the championship pool is now impregnable, all the other issues remain at least theoretically unresolved. Four points separate second-placed HBS from sixth-placed VRA, while in the relegation pool, likely as it is that the two automatic relegation places and one headed for a play-off against the Hoofdklasse champions will feature the three sides currently at the foot of the table, even that is not yet 100% certain. Some of those questions are very likely to be settled this weekend, when because of the impending Super League series against Pakistan five of the six matches have been moved to Saturday.
RL: HCC squeezed into the four by beating Excelsior ’20 last week, but whether they will stay there will depend initially on whether they can overcome Voorburg at Westvliet on Saturday. Tonny Staal’s aggressive century was the foundation of last Sunday’s success, but the Lions will have been pleased to see Zac Worden amongst the runs again, and their attack did all that could have been asked of them in the face of Lorenzo Ingram’s defiant onslaught. Voorburg, on the other hand, have gone on winning despite not quite firing on all cylinders, Andre Malan fitting seamlessly into the side after the departure of his brother Janneman, and will take a superlative performance from HCC to claim the two points they need to consolidate their claim to a place in the final play-offs. There will be plenty of talent, home-grown and imported, on display on both sides, and having made a very good fist of defending a low total at De Diepput a month ago the Lions perhaps have as good a chance of anyone of slowing Voorburg’s march towards the title.
BdJ: While Voorburg have cemented their status as favourites against all comers this season, it’s worth noting that they do lack a left-hand bat of Ingram’s quality in the middle order. Should the visitors manage to get rid of Musa Nadeem early, expect Clayton Floyd and Tim Pringle to have an easier time controlling the middle overs at Westvliet on Saturday. For VCC, already assured of the top spot, it might be tempting to treat the match as a warm-up for the Pakistan series that almost half the team will likely be involved in, nonetheless on current for it would be a brave prediction to back HCC to take points here.
RL: Having both lost last week, Excelsior ‘20 and Punjab Rotterdam will be in urgent need of a victory when they meet at Thurlede on Saturday. This is particularly true of the visitors, who have now failed to defend totals of 281, 312 and 316 since the start of the competition’s second phase. This suggests that while their batting looks a lot more substantial since the arrival of Jonathan Vandiar, who has made 372 runs in his last three visits to the crease, their bowling has fallen upon seriously hard times, claiming only 12 wickets in those three matches and conceding four centuries. Excelsior’s form has been more variable, and they were unfortunate to have seen their match against HBS abandoned a fortnight ago when they were in a fairly strong position. Two wins from their last three games would guarantee them a place in the finals, and they will be keen to improve their advantage over Punjab with a good win here. Home advantage and the presence of Brett Hampton work in their favour, but they will need to find a way round Vandiar’s menace.
BdJ: One has to question just how much of Punjab’s apparent struggles with the ball and fluency with the bat is entirely attributable to the form of their bats or bowlers, rather than the Zomercomplex’s flat mat, rapid outfield and diminutive dimensions. This will be their first outing away from home in the second phase, and fair to say if they rack up 300+ on Saturday they’ll have little reason to worry. Also worth noting they were missing both Myburgh and Salarazai last week. That said it’s never an advantage to play away at Thurlede, and despite racking up runs at home the Punjab line-up has looked less than the sum of its parts all season.
RL: VRA Amsterdam had one of their better days against Punjab last week, and they will need to replicate that this Saturday when they face HBS Craeyenhout in the Bos. Vikram Singh’s first big innings of the season was a massive plus, his partnership with John Smal the basis of their remarkable run chase, but the top order remains vulnerable, and the HBS attack is strong enough to take advantage of that. And then there’s Tayo Walbrugh, who is clearly capable of taking the game away from any opponents and almost spearheaded a win against Voorburg last Saturday. A key factor with both bat and ball, though, could be Wesley Barresi, no stranger to the Bos or to VRA, who is likely to relish the opportunity to ensure the points against his old team-mates. It would take a disastrous end to the second phase to deny HBS a place in the finals, while defeat here would almost certainly put paid to VRA’s already slim chances.
BdJ: Whatever VRA’s top-order worries, one suspects their chief concern come Saturday will be their lack of a genuine strike bowler and the Crows’ intimidating batting card. With conditions expected to favour the bat, their will be few in the VRA line up losing sleep over the HBS seam attack, whereas the home bowlers may well be lying awake at night. If the weather holds up and the pitch is as flat as expected then a run-fest may be looming, and if the biggest hitters are to take it one would expect an HBS win. The toss at the Bos could well prove crucial, but the Crows will start as favourites on paper.
RL: ACC’s victory over Salland opened up clear blue water between themselves and the three sides below them, and they will improve their position greatly if they are able to defeat VOC Rotterdam at Het Loopveld on Saturday. Last week’s game was a typical lower-table, low-scoring encounter, Thomas Hobson and Mees van Vliet having settled the issue as ACC defended a less-than-overwhelming 177, but VOC are likely to present greater problems with the bat. The Rotterdammers’ bowling, however, is less threatening, and it took an incisive spell from Jelte Schoonheim for them to overcome Kampong’s best start of the season. ACC’s mix of imported experience and home-grown talent has turned them into a better side this year, but it’s nevertheless likely that VOC will have too many guns, and will take the points back to Hazelaarweg.
BdJ: A win for ACC would in fact guarantee their survival in the top-flight, as despite the downgrading of points-average it remains the first tie-breaker. 10 points is thus sufficient for them to be sure of finishing ahead of Sparta, Kampong and Dosti in the final reckoning. For the same reason, VOC’s current tally of 10 points is not sufficient to guarantee safety. The Rotterdammers still need either one more win themselves or another defeat for Kampong to breathe easy. Certainly they wouldn’t want to end up in a position where their final match against the latter becomes a relegation-playoff-playoff. Even without Scott Edwards the Bloodhounds made light work of Kampong last week, and while a rather slapdash season has put them in the wrong half of the table, they seem to have woken up to the fact that at least one more Topklasse match warrants their undivided attention. It may not be this one however, with the Pakistan series looming and Pieter Seelaar again sidelined, VOC could be left sweating for another week.
RL: Having broken their duck against Sparta, Dosti Amsterdam will be keen to show that that was no flash in the pan when they take on Kampong Utrecht at Sportpark Drieburg, also on Saturday, and incidentally maintain their minimal hopes of escaping one of the two automatic relegation spots, a positively Houdini-esque operation. They could thank Amitoze Singh and Waheed Masood for that victory, but the whole side has been looking more competitive in recent weeks, and they will provide a real test for Kampong, a much better outfit than their current situation suggests but one which is worrying prone to middle-order collapses. They now need to win all of their remaining games if they are to have any chance of escaping the relegation zone, as Dosti do if they are to scramble out of the bottom two. The loser of this game, therefore, will sink even deeper into the doldrums, while the winner will go into the last two rounds with a lot to play for.
BdJ: I choose to believe in Dosti.
RL: Things go from bad to worse for Sparta 1888, who have failed to reach three figures in each of their last three attempts, and they will be under real relegation pressure as they undertake the tricky journey to Het Schootsveld on Sunday to take on Salland Deventer. Salland have done just about enough to ensure they stay up, while it would take a real reversal of form for Sparta to scramble into the top three of the relegation pool. Even the combined talents of Samit Gohil, Mudassar Bukhari and Ahsan Malik have been enough to make Sparta competitive since the competition resumed, while Salland’s German contingent have taken them to victories over Sparta and Kampong. On the assumption that they will again be present on Sunday, this looks like a probable home win.
BdJ: At this stage the best Sparta can realistically hope for is to earn a play-off against the Hoofdklasse champions to stay up, but their thumping at Drieburg last week (and that at the hands of a team that last won a game against anyone else back when Corona was still just a mexican beer) may have served as something of a wake-up call. Whether Sparta are already resigned to relegation is something of an open question, and their chances will depend as much on how much belief they can muster after a long bus ride as the fickle availability of their opponents’ roster. Like VOC, Salland need only one win or a little luck to be safe from here. Form suggests they should find it on Sunday, but Sparta have more to play for.
RL’s picks: Voorburg, Excelsior, HBS, VOC, Kampong, Salland.
BdJ’s picks: Voorburg, Punjab, HBS, ACC, Dosti, Sparta.